Belgium: mobile phone recycling champion?

Billions of new mobile phones are produced every year and each of them contains metals that remain precious long after the device has given up the ghost. Compared to other countries, Belgians are well ranked worldwide in terms of recycling... but not when it comes to disused smartphones. Are you ready to do your bit?

Barely 12 to 15 % of mobile phones are recycled in Europe *

Do you remember your very first mobile phone ?  Maybe it still evokes a little nostalgia. After all, it was with you for several years.  It’s normal to find it difficult to let go of it.

However, keep in mind that your old mobile phones can be precious in many other ways.

In 2019, more than 1.5 billion phones were sold worldwide, of which more than 2.6 million were sold in Belgium. And when you consider that these devices have a lifespan of no more than 3 years ...

We estimate that all Belgian households combined possess a total of 3.2 million disused mobile phones, or the equivalent of 3 devices per family.

Unfortunately, only 12 to 15 % of disused mobile phones are recycled in Europe.

Materials recovery: a valuable gesture for the environment

Old mobile phones are often set aside. A bad reflex, because they contain many precious metals such as gold, silver and copper…

When it comes to recycling, our country is one of the best in class. In 2019, we collected 10.7 kilos of e-waste per inhabitant.

However, when it comes to recycling old mobile phones, we still have a way to go. Belgians only bring back 8% of their old devices, which means we still have plenty old phones lying around at home.

Recycling old phones is a real and tangible gesture in favour of environmental protection. Recupel can recycle on average 99% of the materials that make up a mobile phone. All of these recovered materials can be reused and therefore reduce  the need for new resources.  

Mining activity in Guyana (South America)

When you know the tremendous environmental impact of mining these materials (enormous water needs, pollution of the surrounding water and soil, destruction of natural habitats,...) as well as the immense human cost of these activities, it’s obvious that Urban Mining, i.e. the sourcing raw materials from electr(on)ic waste, is essential in contributing to a better world and a better preserved environment.

Recycling 50 000 phones and recovering the gold they contain, rather than mining it represents** :

  • 158 T less CO2
  • Approximately 6,300 fewer tonnes of toxic waste in nature


So it’s really worth learning to say goodbye to our old phones, don’t you think ?

Don’t wait any longer, start looking for your closest collection point, for example one of our in-store RecyclePoints.

* According to the study « Identifying the impact of the circular economy on the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Industry – 2019 » from the European Economic and Social Committee.

** Numbers based on a study by UAntwerpen and on an estimation of residuals toxic waste of a non-recycled mobile